Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about “success” – where I am on my own success road map, what quantifies as “success,” and how I can support those around me to reach for their own versions of success.
As I may have mentioned if you follow me on Instagram, I recently celebrated my one year of being in Seattle (hence 1 year out of college, 1 year into the working world, and 1 year of blogging consistently). I feel incredibly blessed to be where I am, and I think that feeling has led me to want to share with you all how you can get to where you want to go.
These 5 lessons that I’ve gathered throughout my life I believe that have helped me to get to where I am today, and I believe will help me continue to grow professionally and personally.
I set this one as number 1 because to me, this is at the top of the list. I remember when I signed the final document for my dream job out of college and planned to have brunch with my grandparents to make the announcement to them. Before that brunch I practiced what I was going to say to them in the mirror about 15-20 times (until I could share the news without bursting into tears). Needless to say, day of, I still started crying.
My grandfather has been the driver behind my success my entire life. Despite growing up in what I think of extreme poverty in Sicily (going to sleep hungry many times), he worked hard and #made it. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. And his hard work has constantly been the driver I needed to go after my dreams. So when at brunch, when I told them that I never ever could have done it without them, and that this success was their success, you can imagine that it led to a pretty emotional table of Italians.
The lesson being, find something or someone that can fuel your dream. When the car that is your life runs out of gas, find the someone or something that can fill you back up and get you back on the road. I think of a road without that “fuel” to be something along the lines of having to get out and push your car for miles. Not easy.
2 ) Set a Goal
Success starts with a goal. It doesn’t have to be a big goal. In fact, a small goal can be more achievable. It can be something as little as “I want to set up an informational interview with this person I admire” or as big as “I want to be CEO.”
In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” she talks about the 18 month goal and the long-term goal. Your 18-month goal is your short-term small goal, and your long-term goal is obviously your big goal. Setting goals in my opinion has made success more manageable.
My junior year of college I experienced what felt like 2 major failures – one was not landing my dream internship, and the other was getting waitlisted to be a Resident Assistant on campus. For both I felt so frustrated and defeated. I had done everything in my power (I felt) to succeed at both, and I felt that I would have been a perfect fit for both positions. Being a somewhat melodramatic post-teen I thought it meant that because of those letdowns, I wasn’t going to get a good job after college, which meant I wasn’t going to be successful.
Once I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole that failure can take you down, I accepted a position with a great company in an industry I had never considered. I also realized that the original position I wanted wasn’t the right fit. Some of the skills I learned that summer have come in handy now in my job in tech. With the RA position, I set up countless meetings with the RA director and asked for feedback, and made sure that I wasn’t about to be forgotten. Mid-summer I received a phone call that someone had dropped and that I was being offered a position. Later that year in my interview for the job I have now, those two positions were big talking points for me (and in my opinion helped me get my job).
Nowadays, I embrace failure because it means I have an opportunity to ask myself and those around me “What can I do better?” Think of every bad grade or failed interview to be a learning experience. When you go back and figure out the “how” and “why” people will not only be happy to help you, but they will respect you more afterwards.
4 ) You don’t get what you don’t ask for
I learned this lesson in an interesting way that was totally not career related. Sometimes as humans we expect people to just know what we’re thinking and understand what we want. We assume that because we may have made a certain facial expression, or dropped a small hint that suddenly everyone is supposed to know what we’re thinking.
In college, I remember having some disagreement with my boyfriend. I came home and started venting (more like ranting) to my mom until she eventually cut me off and said, “Did you actually tell him that’s what you wanted? Did you tell him that this action was bothering you?” I waffled and defended myself saying that I had dropped hints, I’d exhibited some rascal behaviors by being a little sassy, and that no, I shouldn’t have to outright say anything. And that’s when I learned the important lesson that people aren’t mind readers (duh), and if you don’t speak up or ask for what you want, you can’t expect to achieve your goal.
Note: this totally goes for everything in life – work, relationships, etc.
5 ) Learn & capitalize on your strengths
Have you ever taken the StrengthsFinder test? As you can probably guess, it’s a test to find your strengths. The StrengthsFinder book promotes capitalizing on your strengths (instead of focusing on your weaknesses).
In life (and in the workplace) we tend to obsess over the things we’re not good at. But by learning & capitalizing on our strengths we can be more successful and positive in our approach. This is something that I have strived towards in my personal and work life. I accept that I can’t be good at everything, and need to find ways to still work hard, etc. while using my strengths.
I love this look because it’s perfect to take you from the office to happy hour (which is exactly what I did the day I wore this). I’ve refused to wear button down shirts since high school due to the fact that we had a uniform that required wearing a significantly less fashionable version every Tuesday. But I couldn’t resist this Romwe blouse. Isn’t it a total conversation starter? As I wanted the look to focus around the blouse, I paired it with simple black cropped slacks from Gap & Shein Gucci-inspired mules.
What lessons have you learned over the years that you attribute to your success?